A long old time ago, in the spring of 2001, I came up with the idea for a novel. I wasn’t sure what to call it, and didn’t even name the characters straight away, but the vision had successfully stuck. How about a tale about our first and, so far, only discovery of life on another planet? The usual trope whereby it happens to look and sound and feel very much like us. But with one significant difference: they have powers quite beyond our understanding.
Truth be told, I didn’t set out thinking of a formula. Instead, it came to me as a quartet of characters. A surprisingly primal little bunch, they are what intrigued me. The power, I think, of my original plan was entirely theirs. But I’ll get on to them in a bit.
First of all, I suppose I ought to give the overview.
Several centuries into the future (I’ve pencilled in 2301 from the beginning) we are quite comfortably established among the stars. The speed of light was side-stepped some time ago, and even before it was we had the bare basics of interstellar travel as far as our closest few neighbours went. It was in those earliest days of deep space exploration when humanity began its work on our second home planet: Aria, at Alpha-Centauri, or “Toliman” as we call the system by then. Aria is a tale in itself, and by my book’s time it’s well established with a cultural identity of its own and quite a history. Right in the middle of this, a brand new ship called Proteus stops by on its way to explore the Pleiades cluster.
These were the people to make the greatest discovery of them all. As out in the cluster, by an unlikely star, they were to find a world already full with life and populated by what they, at first, mistook for human beings. This is Andala.
Over my own last ten years, I’ve come up with a fair old lot of background. The Proteus crew and the early days of unexpected first contact could fill a book in itself, and just might at some point. But I’ve always had a taste for in medias res: starting things in the middle of the action. This intro I’m writing here is nothing like how I intend to start the book. Indeed, it’s not how my own entry to the story happened either.
How it started was with a glimpse of my four principal characters. They are a man and wife, Alexander and Katerina Kinnerin, along with their son Christopher, and Katerina’s brother Jocaster. Katerina, “Katty” to her “Alex”, is where the intrigue lies. She’s been living a lie for more than a decade. Alexander hasn’t the faintest idea she isn’t human until she tells him in the novel’s opening scene. She isn’t human, she’s Ana (one of the Andalan nations), and she has to get back there in a hurry. The king is dead. And he happens to be her father.
The story I want to tell is of a succession gone awry. Katerina, or as she was called in her previous life: Madala, is the unwilling focus of a struggle between her brother and rebel forces who seem to have a foreign backer. As is traditional on Andala, the matter goes straight to battle, with climactic consequences. The powers they possess, and call “aner” in their language, are to be seen to be believed. I’ll have my work cut out handling it.
To describe the bulk of the story in any comprehensible sense would take longer than to tell it as the characters experience for themselves. There’s a lot of interplay between events and backstory. It will take me a good while here, over many posts, to plot it out. That is, indeed, my purpose.
I’m laying out this site to gather up my notes regarding details large and small. I’ll have ongoing threads on the major characters and places, but I’ve ideas going down to the level of individual words in Madala and Jocaster’s language, Anatara, which I’m keen to keep consistent. In fact, would it surprise anyone to hear that in trying to construct a language for myself, albeit slowly, I’ve taken a shine to studying the background to our own world’s original writing: Sumerian? A few good reads on the subject and I’ve some notes I expect will show up in here. All the better for having a handle on what I’m doing of my own.
As Hemingway once said:
When a writer omits things he does not know, they show like holes in his writing.
Sure enough, I take that idea to all too frequent extremes. I shudder to think how long it took to settle on the Pleiades for Andala, followed by a smile of all I found out about astronomy in the process. But then I do love learning and research. In a sense, Andala is the fruit of my search for knowledge through a decade. That and testing my chops as a writer, I suppose. I’ve just got to set about doing it. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
- projectandala posted this